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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hate the BCS? Root for the Hawkeyes

I'm a huge antagonist when it comes to the Bowl Championship Series, better known as the "BCS," formula of crowning a college football champion. There are far too many years where there's more than two teams worthy of competing for that title by the time the season's over. The really unfortunate thing at this point is that there appears to be no end in sight.

As's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg noted about a year-and-a-half ago, the Big Ten has likely benefited more than any other conference from the current BCS system. This past bowl season did nothing to detract from that thinking, as yet another pair of Big Ten teams, Penn State and Ohio State, made one of the five bowls. But what if the BCS gave the Big Ten a reason to change their tune about the system as a whole?

It might be difficult to look at from as far down the road as we are right now, but an undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes team that does not make the national title game over a one-loss USC or Texas could be that turning point us BCS haters are looking for. I know, I know, I'm a Spartan fan, we're playing Iowa for the right to be in the Big Ten championship drivers seat this weekend, yet I'm still writing this article. Believe me, I want MSU to beat the 'Hawks, but I really feel this subject needs some serious attention. If Iowa was kept out of the title game, the office of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney would be loaded with calls and e-mails from not only Iowa fans, but all Big Ten fans clamoring for him to do something about the disparaging outcome.

Would Delaney, or any other Big Ten bigwigs for that matter, be able to actually affect the needed change? It's hard to say, but having such an ardent supporter of the system turn on the BCS would certainly be a first. Cincinnati and Boise State could also go undefeated and potentially have their bids beat out by another one-loss team. It's pretty safe to say that neither the WAC, or even the Big East, however, likely have the same type of pull with those who actually pull the BCS strings.

So, realistically, how likely is this scenario? Well, it's likely enough that I felt the need to write this article. Iowa already beat fellow front-runner Penn State, but does have to go to East Lansing for a night game against the Spartans this weekend, and then have a trip to the Horseshoe to face Ohio State three weeks later. However, other than that, they play Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota all at home in Iowa City, all very winnable games. As for the others, assuming Iowa beats out Cincy and Boise State in the BCS polls (it wouldn't hurt if the Bearcats lost one too), things are a bit more muddled. There's a decent chance that the SEC champion may have one-loss, and, I would say almost probably, would be ahead of the Hawkeyes in the polls. If, however, there's an undefeated SEC champion, either Florida or Alabama, we can hope Texas loses one in the regular season, then wins the Big 12, or that USC wins out, and looks strong doing so.

Any way you shake it, I do feel that the recent performance, or lack thereof, from the Big Ten in recent bowl games could keep Iowa from getting the votes. Fans across the country have blamed the Big Ten for some bad bowl games lately, and may have reason to blame the conference for the BCS still being around. Come this off-season, however, those same fans may have reason to thank the Big Ten for getting the powers-that-be to seriously consider some major BCS change.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last Week/This Week

Last Week = W/24-14 over Northwestern

Beating a solid NU team at home is just what the doctor ordered for the Spartans confidence heading into a big matchup with Iowa. Allowing Michigan to take them to overtime, and beating a clearly awful Illinois team, was probably not doing enough to boost this team's expectations. Beating a Wildcats team whose QB, Mike Kafka, had 291 passing, and had looked good in their last Big Ten game in West Lafayette, certainly did what the two prior wins could not.

In what was clearly a battle of two halves, MSU's passing game is what took center stage in the latter. After going down 7-0 in the first half, two long touchdown passes to Blair White, one of 22 yards, and the other of 47, really got MSU going in the third quarter. MSU's running game also looked a lot better this week, as neither of the team's primary rushers, true freshmen Larry Caper and Edwin Baker, fumbled the ball. Each of those two also averaged 3.9 and 3.8 yards per carry respectively, helping open things up for Kirk Cousins in that decisive second half.

This Week = vs. Iowa, @ 7pm - Big Ten Network

It certainly didn't look like it was a possibility at the beginning of the season, but MSU has now set themselves up with the chance to make a Big Ten title run. That run will hinge on a victory every week, but the huge test as to whether the Spartans are even worthy of that discussion is going to take place this Saturday in East Lansing.

Iowa comes in having some impressive victories, but some mind-boggling struggles as well. Great road wins at Wisconsin and Penn State are slightly marred by home struggles against FCS member Northern Iowa and Sun Belt team Arkansas State. To say the Hawkeyes are tough to figure out is an understatement, but the leadership of quarterback Ricky Stanzi cannot be questioned. His sub-60% completion percentage, and 11-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't perfect, but he doesn't make the killer mistakes that cost his team the game in crunchtime. Adam Robinson has also looked good as a true freshman, getting playing time due to the injuries of a few ahead of him on the depth chart at the beginning of the year.

If MSU is to win this game, it'll have to be in the air. Iowa's defense is more stout than others, but Kirk Cousins has the weapons at wide receiver and tight end to confuse the Hawkeye secondary. Players like Tony Moeaki might give Greg Jones and the MSU defense fits, but Chris L. Rucker's inspired play recently will certainly help on the defensive end of things. The night crowd will probably be pretty pumped as well, so there will definitely be no lack of adrenaline on the Spartan sidelines.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big win over NU yesterday, setting up what should be a great battle with Iowa next week. I'll have more on the Hawkeyes game during the week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twice is Nice!

It's been so long since us Spartans won two-in-a-row over Michigan that many of us weren't even alive to witness the prior phenomenon. Duffy Daugherty was the coach of MSU back in the 60's, when the program last won, not only strings of victories against the Wolverines, but national titles as well. With that in mind, how did Mark Dantonio, in only his third season at the helm, get the Spartans to a point they haven't been to against their in-state rival in 42 years?

  • No Staff Turnover - When Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing, he brought a great crop of assistant coaches along with him. For instance, both offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, have been on Dantonio's staff since he arrived from Cincinnati and brought both coaches along with him. Former MSU quarterback Dan Enos has been particularly important in the recruiting realm.
  • Recruiting - Dantonio's recruiting emphasis has been within Michigan and Ohio, and it's paid off in spades. ranked the MSU 2009 recruiting class 17th in the nation, and the 2010 class is 28th as of this posting. In-state kids like William Gholston, who may have practically be conceded to Michigan under the John L. Smith regime, have been coveted since day one by Dantonio and his recruiting staff.
  • Emphasis - When it comes to the U-M game, Dantonio has made it a priority every season. The clock he had put up counting down to  the game didn't seem to make its intended point in 2007, but it's worked these last two years. Having been an MSU assistant under Nick Saban from 1995-1999, and then working as a defensive coordinator at Ohio State during their 2002 national championship season, Dantonio understands Spartan Nation's special disposition towards the Wolverines.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2009 Detroit Tigers - The Season of Missed Chances

Scrappy, frustrating, exhilarating. These are just some of the words used to describe the 2009 Detroit Tigers. But nothing sums up the entire season like the word "almost." The Tigers almost ended it after the top of the 10th. They almost scored a go ahead run in the 9th and 12th. But, when it was all said and done, it was the Minnesota Twins, taking advantage of the Tigers mistakes, ending Detroit's 2009 campaign.

Believe it or not, the Tigers didn't lead the majors in LOB (men left on base), nor were they even close. It's hard to imagine, especially considering Tuesday's one game playoff, but it's probably because they have a difficult enough time even getting guys on to begin with. Inge couldn't come through in the end, Laird couldn't come through, and Cabrera, despite his two run shot early on, is going to take a lot of deserved heat these next few days.

This end's going to make for a long summer, and bring up plenty of questions. Should the Tigers have given Magglio those AB's to kick in his $18 million next year? Where are they going to improve the starting pitching/bullpen when there are hardly any good free agents or money to pick them up with?

Kudos to the Twins and Tigers for putting on a heck of a show, but it's another morning on Wednesday where I've gotta duck SportsCenter for CNN.
Tigers just CAN'T leave that many guys on base and still expect to pull it out.
Tigers seem to have blown it in the 9th . . .

Can the Tigers pull it off?

Hard to believe they're in this situation, but the Tigers brought their one game playoff with the Minnesota Twins upon themselves. Luckily, the Tigers have the starting pitching advantage tonight with Rick Porcello going up against Scott Baker for the Twins. Even though Baker got a win against the Tigers last time he faced them on October 1st, he hasn't done remarkably well against them otherwise. Watch for Curtis Granderson to have a decent day, as he gets to hit a righty.

P.S. - Let's just hope Miguel Cabrera isn't inebriated for this one.
This is a test post, as I am testing the SMS post feature from my phone. I'll be posting a U-M/MSU game article in the next couple of days, so watch for that.

Quick Hits

Since I have devoted no time to this blog over the past few months, I've decided that maybe just some quick updates would be a better route to run in terms of getting things posted. The posts will likely be "Twitter-like" in nature, and kept to a short blurb.